Situated just north of Mount Whitney on the eastern slope of the Sierras, 4 hours from Los Angeles and 6 hours from San Francisco, Bishop is the premier bouldering destination in California, with Yosemite being a close second; that’s how good Bishop is! Add priceless views, unlimited potential for alpine adventure, hot springs, great sport climbing, and a pleasant town, and it’s easy to see why Bishop attracts people from all over the world.
What Makes It Great
If you are a rock climber, you have probably heard of Bishop. The history of bouldering here is very rich. Without hiking far at all, you can try testpieces from old school masters like Dale Bard, classic hard lines by Sharma and Graham, or brand new terrors by the likes of Alex Honnold and Shawn Diamond. The Buttermilks, in particular, is a highball heaven.
Four main areas are in the bouldering guidebook, with many satellite areas to explore as well. The Buttermilks, home to such lines as Mandala, Ironman Traverse, Evilution, and Soulslinger, are composed of quartz monzonite, as are the Druid Stones. Crimping is the name of the game here. The Volcanic Tablelands, which contain the Happy Boulders and the Sad Boulders, is made up of volcanic tuff. The climbing there tends to be more gymnastic.
If you fancy some sport climbing, Bishop also has the Owens River Gorge, with hundreds of climbs on volcanic stone. Marty Lewis (and friends) did a great job developing the area, and he’s also written a great guidebook. Don’t forget to check out Towering Inferno, 5 pitches of 5.11 that gets you to the top of the Gorge!
The outdoor activities in Bishop are far too extensive to list here, so go explore. You just might fall in love with the Eastern Sierras.
Who is Going to Love It
There are climbs for people of all ability levels, and approaches are typically easy.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Bishop is just of the 395, between the towns of Big Pine and Mammoth.
The rain shadow of the Sierra Nevadas keeps Bishop sunny for about 300 days out of the year, with prime conditions during most of the Fall, Winter and Spring. Parking lots and climbing zones can get very crowded on weekends, so please be mindful of the fragile desert ecosystem. Likewise, please respect the natural and historical artifacts that can be found in the area.